On this episode of Life at EASe we are speaking with Emily and Victoria about a revolutionary app – PeerKnect. PeerKnect is an app that parents and therapists may download and use in order to build social connections by posting playdates and events for children of all abilities. Emily Bruce is the CEO and Founder of Determinism, LLC, the developer of the platform PeerKnect. She is a Board Certified and licensed Behavior Analyst (BCBA, LBA) in the State of Tennessee with an M.S., in Psychology. Victoria Williams is a mother to a four year old daughter diagnosed with autism. She is an Inclusion Advocate for PeerKnect.
Autism, otherwise known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), isn’t just a reference to one single condition. ASD includes conditions such as Asperger syndrome, autism disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. This change was made in 2013 when medical professionals altered the criteria for an autism diagnosis to better distinguish symptoms and to include other conditions under the ASD umbrella.
ASD is characterized as a developmental disorder that impacts an individual’s social and communication skills. Other characterizations include repetitive behaviors, the ability to self-regulate, potential challenges in building relationships and even challenges with self-help. Signs for this condition often appear early in life, typically around ages 2 to 3 years old. However, signs can go unnoticed for years and a diagnosis might not be made until later in life.
Recent data tells us that 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with ASD and while this condition can affect people from any social and economic group, minorities often experience problems in receiving a diagnosis as early or as often. Boys also have a higher rate of diagnosis, being 4 times more likely to be affected. Research shows that catching the signs early and being diagnosed can significantly benefit the quality of life for the individual.
What Causes Autism?
Much speculation exists about the cause of autism but there are things we know for certain. In the vast majority of cases, individuals are born with autism as a result of their genetics. Children who have siblings with autism do have a higher risk of having autism as well, particularly if the children are twins. Having children at an older age increases the chances of your offspring having ASD as well.
Besides genetics, there are a few other factors that we are aware of that can increase the chances of ASD in children. Certain prescriptions drugs taken during pregnancy, for example, have been linked to a higher chance of ASD. These drugs include valproic acid and thalidomide. Having other chromosomal or genetic conditions also can increase the chances of an ASD diagnosis, such as fragile X syndrome. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that there is some evidence to suggest that a critical period exists for ASD development in the time before, during and immediately after giving birth.
There are still things we don’t know about what causes ASD or what other specific factors can influence its development. Over the last couple of decades, many theories have circulated around the internet about the potential causes of ASD. One thing we do know for certain, thanks to research, is that childhood vaccines do not cause ASD.